By David McEliece, Sports Information Assistant
The Caltech Beavers men's basketball team comes into the season sporting an exciting new line-up and an optimistic outlook on the upcoming season and the years ahead. The team's four returners have worked hard in the off-season to improve their games as well as to build team chemistry among themselves and the first years.
The two returning juniors and team captains are Andrew Hogue and Bryan Joel. Hogue was the team's third-leading scorer last season averaging nearly 10 points a game in 25 games, 20 of which were starts. He also was second on the team with 61 assists on the year. "If SCIAC had a fantasy league, I would want Hogue on my team. He's an absolute stat stuffer" said sixth year head coach Oliver Eslinger. Hogue finished the year in the top 15 rebounds, assists and steals in the league.
Bryan Joel was the team's fourth leading scorer and hit the second most three pointers on the team. He also picked up 47 assists. "He shot 38% from deep last year, which led the team, and continues to work on his game." Eslinger is very pleased to have these two as the leaders of his squad.
"Hogue and Joel are wonderful. They are committed to the program and want to succeed like we never have. They have made personal improvement and worked at boosting the team's chemistry. They are really carrying the torch from last year's seniors, which was my first recruiting class," said Eslinger.
Hogue and Joel are not the only returners who have worked on their game individual and set a standard of work for the new players. Kc Emezie had a stellar first year working his way into the starting rotation for the final 10 games of the year. He averaged more than 10 points a game and shot 52 percent from the field. He also hit 10 of 25 of his shots from three-point land.
"Kc is another guy who works hard for us. He was an outstanding freshman in the SCIAC and he really worked on his body and his athleticism this summer. He was really great for us last year, he shot a very high percentage from deep," said Eslinger.
Robert Anderson has also showed his commitment. After playing in 10 games he was injured, but has not let that deter him. Talking of Anderson, Eslinger said "Robert worked really hard to get back, he brings a lot to the team with his competitiveness and energy. He is another guy we have who is a very good shooter. He comes from a winning program, he won a state championship in high school, so he knows how to compete the right way."
Nasser Al-Rayes was a three-sport athlete and the MVP of his secondary school's league in Qatar his senior year. He averaged 19 points and 13 rebounds his sophomore year and is a school record-holder in the 400 meter.
Matthew Edwards comes in already familiar with Eslinger's program. He played his high school ball in Calfornia and helping out with Eslinger's basketball academy last summer. This will be the fifth straight year a member of the Edwards family has played for the Beaver program. Michael Edwards graduated in 2013 as Caltech's all-time leading scorer.
Ricky Galliani was a first-team all-league player and team MVP his senior year and won his school's Athlete of Distinction award. He also garnished all-county team distinction the year before.
Josh Sonola is an all-around athlete who ran track and played soccer alongside his work on the basketball court. He was voted most athletic in the Georgia Academy of Mathematics, Engineering and Science.
Lawrence Lee not only made first-team all-league twice, he was also the captain of both his basketball and volleyball teams in high school. He was his AAU team's all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks and double-doubles.
Luke Lango was the two-time league scoring leader and three-time league assist leader. He was a captain three years, a three-time-school MVP and was his school's first 1,000 point scorer.
Nick Buoniconti was part of a runner-up state championship at Lake Highland Prepatory (FL) team his junior year, and was on the team when they won the state championship the next year.
David LeBaron also comes from a strong program leading Francis Parker to the league championship three out of his four years there. David was not only the captain of the basketball team, but also the team captain and team MVP for the school lacrosse team, which won the CIF championship.
Naveen Tadepalli had the highest field goal percentage on his team his freshman and sophomore years and also was a top discus thrower. He was the captain of his track and field team.
Darius Simmons was the captain of his intramural basketball team and an intramural football champion. He is another all-around athlete, qualifying for the regionals and states in track.
The incoming Caltech first years are not only talented individual players but they come from strong, winning programs.
Eslinger noted the incomers "have great basketball experience and basketball savvy. We have guys who love the game and want to be in the gym. And that's an ideal situation."
With both the returners and the first years coming in with a growth mindset, committed to both improving individually and strengthening the program for the future, the coming years look bright for the men's basketball team. In addition to the years of experience Eslinger brings, Dave Briski returns for his second year as an assistant coach. Recent graduate Collin Murphy moves to the coaching ranks after serving as team captain his last three years with the Beavers.
The schedule provides a lot of opportunity for eager Beavers to go out and see the new-look team, including the home opener vs. Willamette on November 15 followed the next night by Pacific coming to Braun athletic center, and a match-up against conference rival Occidental on December 4.